Anna Moneymaker / Staff

Federal Agencies Are Taking Steps to Make Benefits and Services More Transgender Inclusive

The Biden administration announced it will provide more options for gender identity on benefit applications and travel documentation, among other things. 

In honor of Trans Visibility Day on Thursday, the Biden administration announced initiatives to make federal benefits and services more inclusive. 

“Transgender Day of Visibility [is] an annual celebration of the resilience, achievements and joy of transgender people in the United States and around the world,” said a fact sheet from the White House. “The administration once again condemns the proliferation of dangerous anti-transgender legislative attacks that have been introduced and passed in state legislatures around the country.” Among the actions rolled out on Thursday were initiatives to remove barriers to access for federal services and improve the customer experience for transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming Americans.

The Social Security Administration will be removing the requirement that individuals need to provide medical or legal documentation of their gender identity when updating their Social Security records. The agency believes this will be an option by the fall. 

In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will allow individuals to choose an “X” gender marker when filling out voluntary self-identification questions that are part of the process for filing charges of discrimination. "We are working on making this change as expeditiously as possible and will make an announcement when implementation is complete," Brett Brenner, EEOC spokesperson, told Government Executive.  

The Education Department will propose next month that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for 2023-2024 will have an option for applicants to note their gender identity in addition to their race and ethnicity. 

Finally, the White House Office of Management and Administration is beginning the process to add an “X” gender marker to the White House Worker and Visitor Entry System, so “transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people can visit the People’s House in a manner that respects and affirms their gender identity,” said the fact sheet. 

As the Human Rights Campaign explains, some non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals identity with the transgender community, but others do not.  

The administration also announced actions to boost inclusion in federal data and improve the travel experience for the transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming Americans through the State and Homeland Security departments, among other things. 

“Starting on April 11, U.S. citizens will be able to select an ‘X’ as their gender marker on their U.S. passport application, and the option will become available for other forms of documentation next year,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a statement. “The department is setting a precedent as the first federal government agency to offer the ‘X’ gender marker on an identity document.”

Additionally, on Thursday, the Health and Human Services Department became the first federal agency to fly the Transgender Pride Flag. During Pride Month last June, several agencies had firsts in flying the Pride flag. 

The White House also noted in its release that supporting transgender public servants is something the administration has been working on since coming into office. President Biden issued an executive order in June 2021 aimed at increasing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the federal workforce and the administration “includes barrier-breaking LGBTQI+ leaders,” such as HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender person confirmed by the Senate who was sworn in as a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps in October. The Biden administration also reversed the Trump administration’s ban on openly transgender individuals serving in the military. 

This article has been updated with comment from the EEOC at 3:05 p.m.